The Zen of Class Design: Ultimate Simplicity


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Have you ever noticed that classes are ridiculously diverse? If someone tells you that they're playing a sorcerer, all you know is they're a spontaneous Cha-based arcane caster. Debuffer? Blaster? Utility? Support? You don't know. Bloodline gives you a hint, but not much of one.

Let's imagine Pathfinder with zero class variation: all members of a class get exactly the same abilities. Let's take feats out, too (increasing class power to keep it balanced). What do you think these classes would look like? Would you play one?

Basically, there is a certain Zen to the older games, where you had to create a unique character through more than a new combination of numbers, and where your character sheet took up less than a page. Is this feasible now?


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Feasible? Possibly... Desirable? No. At least not for me.

I love the fact that every class has a multitude of builds and play styles available to them (admittedly, some more than others). I'd hate to play a game where every member of a certain class is nearly identical in abilities, role and style.

Variety and versatility are good thing... Although I do think Pathfinder could cull a couple classes and many, MANY feats, archetypes and spells that are nothing more than false options and page filler.


Hrmmm... I am not sure I was clear.

Consider the fighter. The fighter has two areas of customization: Weapon training and bonus feats. If these were edited out (weapon training applies to all weapons, maybe, or a progression of special fighter-only abilities instead of feats), you'd still have different builds. Not every fighter would wield a longsword and a heavy steel shield.
Wizards without schools and familiar special abilities (the skill bonus) can still be vastly different. But what a wizard is - what being a wizard means - suddenly becomes far more standardized.

Does that make more sense?


Lemmy wrote:

Feasible? Possibly... Desirable? No. At least not for me.

I love the fact that every class has a multitude of builds and play styles available to them (admittedly, some more than others). I'd hate to play a game where every member of a certain class is nearly identical in abilities, role and style.

Variety and versatility are good thing... Although I do think Pathfinder could cull a couple classes and many, MANY feats, archetypes and spells that are nothing more than false options and page filler.

I suddenly want to guess what classes you would cull.

..is it...

...the Skald?

...and...the Brawler?

Maybe the Swashbuckler, or the Bloodrager? Possibly the Warpriest? Those would be my next guesses.

Was I close?


It all comes down to personal preference. Some people find simplicity appealing, other people like all the fiddly bits and being able to defy convention. Neither is right or wrong, just what that person likes, or feels like at the moment.

That being said, there are already a number of games that do what you're asking, weather that be older games or retro clones or what have you. No need to make Pathfinder into another one.


Snowblind wrote:

I suddenly want to guess what classes you would cull.

..is it...

...the Skald?

...and...the Brawler?

Maybe the Swashbuckler, or the Bloodrager? Possibly the Warpriest? Those would be my next guesses.

Was I close?

Arcanist, Skald, Hunter and Warpriest... Possibly Swashbuckler as well.

The first one is broken and unnecessary, and doesn't add any new character concepts to the game. It should've been an optional alternate casting system.

Skald should'be been an archetype.

Hunter and Warpriest are almost completely pointless and don't really allow any character concept that couldn't be done via at least a couple other classes, sometimes much more successfully too.

Swashbuckler... Is a wasted opportunity, a disappointment and a failure. The designer ignored pretty much all feedback given to him and the end result was a class that's nothing but a dip class at best.


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SanKeshun wrote:

Hrmmm... I am not sure I was clear.

Consider the fighter. The fighter has two areas of customization: Weapon training and bonus feats. If these were edited out (weapon training applies to all weapons, maybe, or a progression of special fighter-only abilities instead of feats), you'd still have different builds. Not every fighter would wield a longsword and a heavy steel shield.
Wizards without schools and familiar special abilities (the skill bonus) can still be vastly different. But what a wizard is - what being a wizard means - suddenly becomes far more standardized.

Does that make more sense?

Yeah, but why reduce customization and variety? One thing is to remove false options, another thing is unnecessarily removing perfectly functional character customization options.

See Clerics... They are extremely boring to build... Precisely because the class offers little to no customization option. There is no meaningful decision to be made when leveling up to an even-numbered level.

Building characters should be fun too. The player should get something exciting every time he levels up, not just yet another +1.


Lemmy wrote:
Snowblind wrote:

I suddenly want to guess what classes you would cull.

..is it...

...the Skald?

...and...the Brawler?

Maybe the Swashbuckler, or the Bloodrager? Possibly the Warpriest? Those would be my next guesses.

Was I close?

Arcanist, Skald, Hunter and Warpriest... Possibly Swashbuckler as well.

The first one is broken and unnecessary. It should've been an optional alternate casting system.

Skald should'be been an archetype.

Hunter and Warpriest are almost completely pointless and don't really allow any character concept that couldn't be done via at least a couple other classes, sometimes much more successfully too.

Swashbuckler... Is a wasted opportunity, a disappointment and a failure. The designer ignored pretty much all feedback given to him and the end result was a class that's nothing but a dip class at best.

I don't think the Hunter and Warpriest are all that bad honestly. They just unfortunately have to contend with the Cleric and Druid being, well the Cleric and the Druid.


Prince Yyrkoon wrote:
I don't think the Hunter and Warpriest are all that bad honestly. They just unfortunately have to contend with the Cleric and Druid being, well the Cleric and the Druid.

Yeah, but what concept do they add to the game that couldn't be done via Cleric, Druid, Inquisitor, Oracle, Shaman, Ranger or Bard? Or at least, via archetypes of those classes?

Pretty much nothing.


Lemmy wrote:
Prince Yyrkoon wrote:
I don't think the Hunter and Warpriest are all that bad honestly. They just unfortunately have to contend with the Cleric and Druid being, well the Cleric and the Druid.

Yeah, but what concept do they add to the game that couldn't be done via Cleric, Druid, Inquisitor, Oracle, Shaman, Ranger or Bard? Or at least, via archetypes of those classes?

Pretty much nothing.

You're absolutely right as things currently stand. I think they'd do better if the Cleric/Druid/Oracle/Shaman were D6 1/2 BAB classes, and the Feral Hunter was the basis of the Hunter class instead of Teamwork Feats and an Animal Companion.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Are you saying instead of having bards, clerics, druids, sorcerers, witches, and wizards, we should have buffers, healers, battlefield controllers, blasters, debuffers, and utility casters?

Instead of barbarians, fighters, paladins, and rangers, we would have strikers, tanks, defenders, and ranged strikers?

Or just 3 classes: anvil, arm, and hammer?


@OP: I don't really agree. Having more simplistic options for players who don't like complexity might be something worth looking into, but I'm personally not a fan and with how heavy feat trees are you can pretty much cookie cutter your way through a build without having to worry about decision making.

That said, a fighter who lost bonus feats in exchange for not having gargantuan messes of a feat trees required just to be remotely competent does sound kind of appealing.

@Lemmy
Well, Warpriest has gish action economy that can't be replicated by either the cleric or inquisitor. If anything the problem is less the Warpriest and more the fact that we have a ninth level caster that also gets to be a damn good martial at the same time.

Hunter is better and worse in many regards. Worse because it's much closer to its 4th level analog than the Warpriest is, better because Druids aren't all that great at being martial, which gives the hunter a better niche in that comparison. Ultimately while it does suffer a bit, the class is still very good at being a martial-caster hybrid and does a much better job making its AC feel like an integral part of the class rather than a tacked on addition like the Ranger or Druid's. So while I agree with you that the hunter feels redundant and I very heavily rolled my eyes when the class was announced, at the same time none of the hunters I've made could be replicated by being a ranger or a druid and while more grandiose diversity and unique options might be better in the long run, that's still a good thing.

Swashbuckler I can agree on, mostly just because the class fails on every level. Mechanically it's just not very good at much of anything and thematically Swashbucklers are not very good at Swashbuckling and don't solve the biggest problem Pathfinder has with emulating archetypes like that. It's just as immobile as every other martial past level 5.

Why not the shaman? It's a dull abomination of a ninth level caster and while the Warpriest, Hunter and even Swashbuckler have issues, at least they're still relevant to some degree. I don't even hear people talk about the Shaman except to comment on how much of an abomination of a class it is. If anything should get thrown in the dumpster...

Personally I think the idea of culling anything out of the system is dumb though. More options is intrinsically better because it provides more levels of play and more ways for players and GMs to customize their settings and adventures. Delicious.


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I am not sure there's value to simplicity because you can always opt for simplicity. By removing options you're just forcing simplicity on everyone.


swoosh wrote:

Well, Warpriest has gish action economy that can't be replicated by either the cleric or inquisitor. If anything the problem is less the Warpriest and more the fact that we have a ninth level caster that also gets to be a damn good martial at the same time.

Hunter is better and worse in many regards. Worse because it's much closer to its 4th level analog than the Warpriest is, better because Druids aren't all that great at being martial, which gives the hunter a better niche in that comparison. Ultimately while it does suffer a bit, the class is still very good at being a martial-caster hybrid and does a much better job making its AC feel like an integral part of the class rather than a tacked on addition like the Ranger or Druid's. So while I agree with you that the hunter feels redundant and I very heavily rolled my eyes when the class was announced, at the same time none of the hunters I've made could be replicated by being a ranger or a druid and while more grandiose diversity and unique options might be better in the long run, that's still a good thing.

All those things could be done via archetyoes. An Inquisitor that switchs Judgement/Bane for... Whatever is the name of the Warpriest's class feature. A Druid who switchs Wild Shape for the Hunter's bonus to animal companions, and so on...

swoosh wrote:
Personally I think the idea of culling anything out of the system is dumb though. More options is intrinsically better because it provides more levels of play and more ways for players and GMs to customize their settings and adventures. Delicious.

The problem is that false and pointless options doesn't really add any meaningful choice to the game, but still needlessly increases the game's complexity (making it harder to learn and keep up with and more intimidating to newcomers) and adds page count (which makes books not only bigger, heavier and more intimidating, but also more expensive).

I'm all in favor of getting new options... As long as they are real options, not just page-filler added solely so that Paizo can add "This book has a billion brand new classes/archetypes/feats/spells/whatever!" to their ads without being sued for false advertisement.


SanKeshun wrote:


Basically, there is a certain Zen to the older games, where you had to create a unique character through more than a new combination of numbers, and where your character sheet took up less than a page. Is this feasible now?

Oh joy, "roleplaying was better back in the old days". Speaking as someone who was there, no it bloody wasn't.


Lemmy wrote:
All those things could be done via archetyoes. An Inquisitor that switchs Judgement/Bane for... Whatever is the name of the Warpriest's class feature. A Druid who switchs Wild Shape for the Hunter's bonus to animal companions, and so on...

Probably. But the difference between having a warpriest class and having an inquisitor archetype that trades everything the inquisitor has for everything the warpriest has is pretty moot.

Plus having new classes means better support down the line, something archetypes generally don't get.

Quote:
The problem is that false and pointless options doesn't really add any meaningful choice to the game

Well these classes aren't false. They're not significant to the same degree as others, but that doesn't make them false, just more granular.

Now real false choices like some of the really bad archetypes and feats you might have a point on, but that's a big degree away from a whole class.


swoosh wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
All those things could be done via archetyoes. An Inquisitor that switchs Judgement/Bane for... Whatever is the name of the Warpriest's class feature. A Druid who switchs Wild Shape for the Hunter's bonus to animal companions, and so on...

Probably. But the difference between having a warpriest class and having an inquisitor archetype that trades everything the inquisitor has for everything the warpriest has is pretty moot.

Plus having new classes means better support down the line, something archetypes generally don't get.

Having fewer classes with more support is much better than having more classes with less support. Page count and development time is limited. Every option added to Hunter is an option not added do Druid Inquisitors or Rangers, which fill the same class design and character concept. It's easier for both the company and the players to keep track of and create content for fewer classes with more options each than for more classes with fewer options each.

swoosh wrote:
Well these classes aren't false. They're not significant to the same degree as others, but that doesn't make them false, just more granular. Now real false choices like some of the really bad archetypes and feats you might have a point on, but that's a big degree away from a whole class.

Maybe not false... But still pointless. Like I said, they don't really add anything to the game that couldn't be done better via existing classes and new archetypes. I think their existence harm the game in the long run.

Are Hunters and Warpriests terrible classes? No... But they are still pointless, and they still grab time and effort that could have been used on existing classes that fill the same role. The ACG, for example, would have greatly benefited from having "only" 4~6 classes with more development time put into them than having 10 obviously rushed classes (some more than others) in a obviously rushed book.

I don't remember who right now, but I remember at least one member of the Paizo staff admitting that one of the reasons the ACG suffered in quality was because the designers had too many classes to create in too little time.

That said... They tried to overcompensate for that fiasco and complaints of class bloat by making the Avenger a 4-in-1 class which ended up being a complete mess that didn't work at all. Luckily, the criticism was so fierce during the playtest that Paizo heard the players and decided to make some of its original options into archetypes. But again, none of that would have been even necessary if they hadn't felt the need to create 10 new classes at the same time, at least 3~5 of which would work much better as archetypes, optional rules or feat chains.

It'd also make the game more welcoming to new players, which is very important if we want our hobby to thrive.

Dark Archive

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There are a number of things that I can do easier with a Warpriest or a Hunter than a variant of a Ranger, Druid, or Inquisitor. I would rather have more classes than more archetypes, since very few archetypes drastically alter the way a class functions, other than the ones we got for Vigilante.


Manly-man teapot wrote:
SanKeshun wrote:


Basically, there is a certain Zen to the older games, where you had to create a unique character through more than a new combination of numbers, and where your character sheet took up less than a page. Is this feasible now?
Oh joy, "roleplaying was better back in the old days". Speaking as someone who was there, no it bloody wasn't.

Obviously...it wasn't bloody better, it was bloody awesome!

:P

AKA...

Bloody Brilliant...

(though am I saying that about my teasing or the state of RP back then)?


In answer to the actual question, I think it is absolutely feasible these days.

There are several games that go down this path.

5e, though you have many options at the front, after your initial character creation, many choices go down the same path.

In Castles and Crusades you have the same type of dynamic that you had in OD&D, AD&D, 2e, BX, and BECMI.

In addition, those old games are actually still available (in PDF form) and can be paid and played currently.

I think it's absolutely feasible. Now, whether people who love Pathfinder would love games with more limited options in customization or not is a very different question.

I think there are those that would go with that, but far more would feel it was far too restrictive compared to what many modern games (Pathfinder for example) offer in ways of numerical and statistical customization.


So do you think the variety in Pathfinder necessarily needs to come from class? Taking the Hunter-Druid-Ranger debate, some of you seem to feel we should simplify classes and expand options for them (Hunter should be an archetype), some the opposite (Hunter should be a class). Why? Is this your opinion as a GM or a PC? An experienced player or a newbie?

I know when I was new, having to read more than half the Core Rulebook straight through to even understand character creation was a pain. I think we all agree that tweaking where the complexity lies could help new players get into the game.

And no, Manly-Man Teapot, I wasn't there, so I will defer to your expertise! However, I learned to DM on original D&D, and only afterwards with Pathfinder, both initially without players. So when I say one is much simpler and more accessible, I am speaking from experience.


SanKeshun wrote:

So do you think the variety in Pathfinder necessarily needs to come from class? Taking the Hunter-Druid-Ranger debate, some of you seem to feel we should simplify classes and expand options for them (Hunter should be an archetype), some the opposite (Hunter should be a class). Why? Is this your opinion as a GM or a PC? An experienced player or a newbie?

I know when I was new, having to read more than half the Core Rulebook straight through to even understand character creation was a pain. I think we all agree that tweaking where the complexity lies could help new players get into the game.

And no, Manly-Man Teapot, I wasn't there, so I will defer to your expertise! However, I learned to DM on original D&D, and only afterwards with Pathfinder, both initially without players. So when I say one is much simpler and more accessible, I am speaking from experience.

Are you addressing me in that? I'm not sure if you are or aren't.

I don't think variety in Pathfinder necessarily comes from class, but from all the options available (for example, feats and skills may have some classes that take them more than others, but are not necessarily class restrictive).

Other aspects from games without these options so abundant also apply. So, you can also have the different stats for your ability scores, roleplay them different, use different weapons, but you also have a ton of other ways to customize the character with archtypes, feats, traits, skills, etc.

However, I DO really love other systems as well (AD&D for example) and think that in some ways, adjusting your character and giving them a stronger personality was more stressed due to the style of play of the participants in many ways at times. Not that this is NOT possible in pathfinder (and in fact some do this in Pathfinder), but that because of the inherent way that these games operate, it's that type of playstyle which is far more encouraged in many instances.

In addition, with ability rolls (using the ability to roll as a number instead of the modifier) it also emphasizes the differences of abilities far more than a system that utilizes the modifiers far more (like Pathfinder).

Don't get me wrong, I love Pathfinder far more than 5e, but I think 5e and even other systems are very feasible and actually very beloved by the many who play them.


I was trying to address everyone. Seems it worked so far!

GreyWolfLord wrote:


I don't think variety in Pathfinder necessarily comes from class, but from all the options available (for example, feats and skills may have some classes that take them more than others, but are not necessarily class restrictive).

Do you think variety ought to come from one source or another? There have been some critiques of feat trees - maybe that's somewhere we could embrace less variety. I know some skills are simplified from 3.5, some are expanded. Which improves the game? Should we have more skills? Or fewer? Or did this end up just right?

Or, as GreyWolfLord kind of mentioned later, does it matter, since the player of a character will always play them in a unique manner?


I thought the OP was trolling. Why would everyone want to play what is essentially the same build?
If every fighter is really "Bob the Fighter",sure you have to reach as a player to make yourself unique...in Old D&D it was like that.
So sure it encourages roleplay, but only because that's the only way you have to customize yourself.
More options > Less options.
It may be sacrilege to say this, but you don't have to use all the content at once. You can decide what classes,creatures and abilities you want in your games...so it's only as convoluted as the DM wants it to be (barring PFS,but that's another can of worms)

Pathfinder is a very advanced game, it's not easy to just 'pick up", but once it is it can be endlessly rewarding and replayable to the extent that many other games are not. That's the real strength of all the options...You could play 50 fighters in a row if you wanted and each could be totally unique.


Legio_MCMLXXXVII wrote:
There are a number of things that I can do easier with a Warpriest or a Hunter than a variant of a Ranger, Druid, or Inquisitor. I would rather have more classes than more archetypes, since very few archetypes drastically alter the way a class functions, other than the ones we got for Vigilante.

My point is precisely that Hunters and Warpriests do not "drastically alter the way a class functions". That's why they might as well be archetypes for existing classes.

I'm all game for having new classes! As long as they are actually new, not just a slightly different version of an existing class with slightly different specialization (that's a big problem with the ACG, BTW).

I think Paladins and Rangers are different enough to be separate classes, even if they have many similarities. Druid and Hunter, OTOH, not really... It's basically a Druid archetype hijacking the Ranger's fluff.

Hell! Even the Cavalier, as it is right now could be an archetype for Rangers and/or Paladins. That class really needs a rehash, but as the possibly least popular class in the game, it wasn't deemed worthy of an Unchained version.


I would sooner remove 9th level casters than any 6th level caster. In general, they have limited class options beyond an expanded spellbook - Sorcerer and Oracle being the counterexamples.

EDIT

Classes I would cut above all others:

Cleric, Druid, Fighter, (Core) Monk, Rogue, Wizard, Gunslinger, Witch, Arcanist, Swashbuckler, and the Psychic. Possibly the Shaman, but I just don't know well enough.

If I had to prune even further it would be all 9th level casters, complicated classes that are hard to GM for (like occult classes) - especially when there is no reward to the complicated nature, archetyped monk, and unchained classes.

If I then had to come up with a new CRB list of a dozen: Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Brawler, Hunter, Inquisitor, Investigator, Magus, Skald, Slayer, Summoner (no Master Summoner), and Warpriest are in easily. I have little justification with Skald, but I like it and it's waaay different than a bard or barbarian. There's overlap but distinction and I can't think of a trope that can't be filled by these other than paladin whose too meta for my taste to use in this list.


There is an assumption that I would like you all to drop.

Imagine a Core Fighter who dual-wields a scimitar and a kukri.
Imagine a Core Fighter who wears heavy armor and uses a tower shield.

These are a different build, no archetype required, and no variation in class rules required.

Anyone who thinks that variation in the class rules is required for different builds, you are wrong.

In addition, a bit of math for you about options. When you have infinite options, you are guaranteed not to choose the best one. When you have no options, you are guaranteed to choose the best one (because you don't have a choice). As the number of options increases, your ability to create the perfect character (whether this is power gaming, flavor, or whatever) decreases. So for everyone who is saying that having more options lets you create a better character, that's not what you mean.
More options within sense is what you mean, and that's the question I am curious about: where is that limit?


I think your confusing a dynamic that you see on these boards at times, with how people actually play.

A dynamic you see here, occasionally, is that of people trying to power game or optimize out the wazoo. In that, yes, many builds will use very similar elements.

However, in actual play, you'd be surprised with the number of different ways that people utilize skills and feats, taking what many on these boards would consider less than optimal choices because they want to play their characters that way.

In fact, if you were to only go by what you see on the boards, you might assume Rogues never get played...but in actual play there are a LOT of people who play Rogues out there.


GreyWolfLord wrote:
I think your confusing a dynamic that you see on these boards at times, with how people actually play.

This is entirely possible...

And rereading my last post, that was a bit of an unjustified rant. Sorry about that.

However, my point about options still stands. Infinite options = guaranteed suboptimal choices (whether you're looking for flavor or power gaming). So the question likewise remains of where the line ought to be drawn.


I would argue it's not about choosing options at all, ideally.

Ideally you come up with the type of character you want to play, then choose the race and class that fits the personality and niche. Unfortunately, that becomes extremely difficult in Pathfinder because the volume of options combined with the shocking inequality in choosing those options. That's why covering as many niches as possible is important with classes that stay relatively balanced 1-20.


SanKeshun wrote:
However, my point about options still stands. Infinite options = guaranteed suboptimal choices (whether you're looking for flavor or power gaming). So the question likewise remains of where the line ought to be drawn.

I'm.. not sure that's actually true.

Infinite options means infinite variability. Which means that you can do anything you want because an option exists for anything. Which means that whatever you make will be able to accomplish whatever goal you set forward for the character without any compromises. Which means perfect optimization.


SanKeshun wrote:

Have you ever noticed that classes are ridiculously diverse?

Basically, there is a certain Zen to the older games, where you had to create a unique character through more than a new combination of numbers, and where your character sheet took up less than a page. Is this feasible now?

Older games were very much about player skill, not character skill. That is not why I play pathfinder. I have lots of OSR games to choose from for that. In OD&D if every stat was 10-11 you would do fine because almost nothing called for ability checks. And as a personal choice I stopped playing games like that for games like Pathfinder for a reason.

Would I like it - no.

I actually have something like 130 classes in my campaign - pretty much everything from Paizo and lots and lots of 3rd part. And I get more, and new ones - as much as anything to see new mechanics and ways to use what we have. I adore the Talented class line from Rogue Genius games - which removes class abilities and lets you pick which ones you want (like a fighter just has talents - and every fighter archtype ability is there, along with base fighter abilities, and then feats are a talent choice).

My primary game is Hero - a point buy effects driven system, much more open than pathfinder.

So my personal taste is my games is about as far opposite to what you propose as it is possible to be.

I would never play a game with that few mechanical options.


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Personally the lack of options is one of the reasons I don't much care for 5e.

If you don't play a spellcaster and don't use variant rules, a game of 5e gives you exactly ten mechanical decision points across the entire span of the game in terms of character creation, half of which are pretty much already decided by the way the game handles its math.

Now the OP is right, even if I make those same mechanical decisions twice I can fluff out an entirely different character with them.. but I can also do that in Pathfinder too. Except I have options if I don't want to do that too.

So, no, I don't really see simplicity as a positive. It just means less stuff and the cool thing about a game with more stuff is that some of that stuff can be simple/easy stuff.


swoosh wrote:
SanKeshun wrote:
However, my point about options still stands. Infinite options = guaranteed suboptimal choices (whether you're looking for flavor or power gaming). So the question likewise remains of where the line ought to be drawn.

I'm.. not sure that's actually true.

Infinite options means infinite variability. Which means that you can do anything you want because an option exists for anything. Which means that whatever you make will be able to accomplish whatever goal you set forward for the character without any compromises. Which means perfect optimization.

The complete explanation is actually in my previous post. It derives out of limits from calculus - we don't know what happens at infinity, but we can figure out what would happen based on what happens as we approach infinity.

As you get progressively more options, it becomes progressively more difficult to select the best option, because it is harder to find that option. There are hundreds of threads already which boil down to "how do I do <something> better?" If you had infinite options, then you would never be able to find the absolute best, because the subtleties and nuances would overwhelm any meaningful difference. Optimization is only possible up to a certain threshold where the difficulty in further optimizing a character outweighs the benefits of that optimization. Beyond that level of options, assuming that all options are balanced, characters become progressively weaker compared to the theoretical perfectly optimized character.
Hence, infinite options = guaranteed suboptimal characters.
Does that make sense? Or did I not explain it any better this time around?

Grand Lodge

Lemmy wrote:
Snowblind wrote:

I suddenly want to guess what classes you would cull.

..is it...

...the Skald?

...and...the Brawler?

Maybe the Swashbuckler, or the Bloodrager? Possibly the Warpriest? Those would be my next guesses.

Was I close?

Arcanist, Skald, Hunter and Warpriest... Possibly Swashbuckler as well.

The first one is broken and unnecessary, and doesn't add any new character concepts to the game. It should've been an optional alternate casting system.

Skald should'be been an archetype.

Hunter and Warpriest are almost completely pointless and don't really allow any character concept that couldn't be done via at least a couple other classes, sometimes much more successfully too.

Swashbuckler... Is a wasted opportunity, a disappointment and a failure. The designer ignored pretty much all feedback given to him and the end result was a class that's nothing but a dip class at best.

Agreed.


Squiggit wrote:
So, no, I don't really see simplicity as a positive. It just means less stuff and the cool thing about a game with more stuff is that some of that stuff can be simple/easy stuff.

Where do you see the simple/easy stuff in Pathfinder, out of curiosity?

I mean, it takes 10 chapters of reading to make your first character. As opposed to a few pages. That is not what I would call simple.

I've been referencing the Core Fighter throughout this thread because it is (at least in my opinion) the easiest class to understand. As a GM, yeah, I can teach someone to 'be a fighter' in about twenty minutes (including character creation) if by 'be a fighter' you mean 'hitting things with pointy sticks.' But I don't think that's what we mean. Maybe I just approach the game differently, but I believe a fighter is more than some armor and some weapons.
When I just teach people the 'pointy sticks' version - what I think you mean by simple/easy stuff, and I could be wrong - they stop playing. They get up and leave.
When I give people a Core Monk, which actually almost matches what I am proposing with this thread, they stick with it.

Is it so terrible to want to be able to give people that?

Earlier in the thread, Create Mr. Pitt said that removing options is forcing simplicity on everyone, and I believe that's wrong. Everyone complained about Core Monk for being too complex and too difficult, when for me, it's the most reliable class to keep someone with the game. I am by no means saying that we should get rid of the advanced complexity. What I am saying is that simplicity has value, and it's sorely lacking in Pathfinder. Am I alone in this?


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I sympathize/agree with the OP...
3.x and PRPG have basically moved to where character building is it's own mini-game.
And obviously such a decision has certain business rationale, because the people into that mini-game
are going to be constantly buying the library of crunch bloat books, like Magic The Gathering card game.
Obviously that's a good market for a RPG company to target if they want to stay in business, OK.

I do wonder, let's say in context of Pathfinder 2nd Edition, since current status quo is entrenched...
Why not ditch Feats, and have rich full-featured base classes... + In-play options like weapons/spells etc.
Instead of Feats, just publish more Archetypes which can achieve similar variety in effect...
Yet you never have to use or even look at them, and if you don't, you still have a strong, full-featured character.
Unlike now where perusal of countless Feats is basically mandatory.

Would that be a better medium between both play styles? It also seems in line with Paizo's current design philosopy,
opposing "Feat Tax" and being dubious of the profusion of Feats like Extra Rage Power etc.
Even Skills are tedious in current system, micro-managing ranks, small-change "Class Skill" bonuses etc.
Really, I don't see the need for more than three "tiers" of skills, each scaled to your level (and stats).
(and "special abilities" could of course modify/augment them)

Of course when you use Core Monk as example, an important part of this is making balance work out from the start.
Because honestly that is a good amount of impetus behind many Feats, is "fixing" a previous sub-par option.
(many people felt Core Monk didn't balance vs. other core Classes, at least not without expert usage of expansion material)
(of course this is an issue with balance of one element vs. other systemic elements, and expectations/options)


I will just say that there are good reasons I will not go back to playing 1e/2e even though I still have a stack of books shoulder high.
Because that is what you are talking about in removing feats and variety in class abilities.

I can't see that having options as bad.
I can't see variety as bad.

Part of the problem with pre 3.x was that you couldn't effectively convey what it meant to be a fey-touched sorceror. The only difference between 2 fighters was the weapon. It was bland, but it was all we knew.

Now I have a colour TV, there is no way am I going back to watching films in black and white.


SanKeshun wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
So, no, I don't really see simplicity as a positive. It just means less stuff and the cool thing about a game with more stuff is that some of that stuff can be simple/easy stuff.

Where do you see the simple/easy stuff in Pathfinder, out of curiosity?

I mean, it takes 10 chapters of reading to make your first character. As opposed to a few pages. That is not what I would call simple.

I've been referencing the Core Fighter throughout this thread because it is (at least in my opinion) the easiest class to understand. As a GM, yeah, I can teach someone to 'be a fighter' in about twenty minutes (including character creation) if by 'be a fighter' you mean 'hitting things with pointy sticks.' But I don't think that's what we mean. Maybe I just approach the game differently, but I believe a fighter is more than some armor and some weapons.
When I just teach people the 'pointy sticks' version - what I think you mean by simple/easy stuff, and I could be wrong - they stop playing. They get up and leave.
When I give people a Core Monk, which actually almost matches what I am proposing with this thread, they stick with it.

Is it so terrible to want to be able to give people that?

Earlier in the thread, Create Mr. Pitt said that removing options is forcing simplicity on everyone, and I believe that's wrong. Everyone complained about Core Monk for being too complex and too difficult, when for me, it's the most reliable class to keep someone with the game. I am by no means saying that we should get rid of the advanced complexity. What I am saying is that simplicity has value, and it's sorely lacking in Pathfinder. Am I alone in this?

The value of simplicity is subjective. You may, and given this thread I would very much suspect that you do, find it appealing. I, and others, do not. Instead of seeking to change Pathfinder to better suit your preferences (and consequentially make it less suited to mine, have you considered trying other games? Simplicity in game design is seemingly in vogue right now, and there are several games that would seem more in line with what you're asking for. 5E, for example, sounds very close to what you are describing.


dragonhunterq wrote:

I will just say that there are good reasons I will not go back to playing 1e/2e even though I still have a stack of books shoulder high.

Because that is what you are talking about in removing feats and variety in class abilities.

I can't see that having options as bad.
I can't see variety as bad.

Part of the problem with pre 3.x was that you couldn't effectively convey what it meant to be a fey-touched sorceror. The only difference between 2 fighters was the weapon. It was bland, but it was all we knew.

Now I have a colour TV, there is no way am I going back to watching films in black and white.

To me it sounded more like how 5e did things, though 5e does have a feat option if one wishes to take it.

I don't see it as the difference between Colour and B&W, to me it's more the difference in styles.

It would be more choosing whether one wanted to listen to Baroque or Jazz.

Grand Lodge

GreyWolfLord wrote:
I don't see it as the difference between Colour and B&W

Dude named "GreyWolf" with a wolf avatar "can't see the difference between color and black and white." :)


Prince Yyrkoon wrote:
... have you considered trying other games? ...

I haven't yet, but I might (partly based on this discussion). The main reason I'm not is that I am actively scouring the forums for ideas for a campaign setting I'm building. I was going to create specialized versions of the classes and add a few of my own, because I've never figured out how/where to publish so it doesn't matter if my world is ludicrously overdetailed to where no one else would use it.

That's actually why I was curious about simplifying classes. It's not to simplify all classes, but to create a simplified core from which to derive more complex classes.
But... the discussion took a life of its own and I went with it. I still got useful feedback, though! Which reminds me - thank you, all, for sharing your thoughts!

If anything, what my thought experiment is becoming similar to is...

Quandary wrote:

Why not ditch Feats, and have rich full-featured base classes... + In-play options like weapons/spells etc.

Instead of Feats, just publish more Archetypes which can achieve similar variety in effect...
Yet you never have to use or even look at them, and if you don't, you still have a strong, full-featured character.
Unlike now where perusal of countless Feats is basically mandatory.


GreyWolfLord wrote:


To me it sounded more like how 5e did things, though 5e does have a feat option if one wishes to take it.

I don't see it as the difference between Colour and B&W, to me it's more the difference in styles.

It would be more choosing whether one wanted to listen to Baroque or Jazz.

A valid opinion.

I think the differences run a lot deeper than just styles.

I haven't tried 5e yet, I read through the stuff thats available and it just feels so limiting, like someone turned off all the colour. Or, to use your analogy, playing jazz and baroque on the kazoo (does that work? - not really a music person).


dragonhunterq wrote:
...playing jazz and baroque on the kazoo...

As someone who carries a kazoo with them everyone they go, yes. Yes, that does work.


5e has more in-game choices and less out-of-game choices so YMMV. While you can't build each character to do just one thing well; almost anyone can have their equipment stolen and make do, and you can use a much wider variety of items at any given time. For example, you get captured and are forced to escape - but you only find equipment from your captors. Now your bow using ranger switches to two weapon fighting with daggers and isn't crippled.

I'm satisfied with backgrounds, class, archetype, and race to customize with. Feats are in all the games I have played but +2 to an ability score doesn't suck.


dragonhunterq wrote:
GreyWolfLord wrote:


To me it sounded more like how 5e did things, though 5e does have a feat option if one wishes to take it.

I don't see it as the difference between Colour and B&W, to me it's more the difference in styles.

It would be more choosing whether one wanted to listen to Baroque or Jazz.

A valid opinion.

I think the differences run a lot deeper than just styles.

I haven't tried 5e yet, I read through the stuff thats available and it just feels so limiting, like someone turned off all the colour. Or, to use your analogy, playing jazz and baroque on the kazoo (does that work? - not really a music person).

5E isn't a bad game by any means, but does feel somewhat restrictive at times, especially if you try and go against the grain. Because of how much of your effectiveness at any given task derives from your raw stats, and how a smaller number pool makes each +1 that much more impactful, certain builds are difficult at best

(the iconic longsword wielding Bladesinger, is one of those, rather ironically. You need Int as a Wizard, you need Dex for armor, and you need Con for concentration/HP as a melee combatant. You just don't have the resources to boost your strength).


SanKeshun wrote:
Let's imagine Pathfinder with zero class variation: all members of a class get exactly the same abilities. Let's take feats out, too (increasing class power to keep it balanced). What do you think these classes would look like? Would you play one?

I've done that in live-action roleplaying in the Amtgard system. In live-action combat, the players don't have time to explain their characters beyond a class, so all members of the same class at the same level have the same abilities. The fighters could use armor and all martial weapons, the healers were limited to daggers and healing spells represented by long recitations of memorized text, the wizards also had daggers and spells were represented by thrown soft bags, etc. The statistics of a character are the player's own abilities.

Such games are half fluff, because repeated combat is too tiring. Live-action combat roleplaying is an excuse to play make-believe during outdoor exercise.

For tabletop roleplaying, the customization of a character is half the fun for me. The player makes choices for the character and sees how those choices work out. Designing the characters abilities is part of the choices.

Sometimes I play a character to see what a Pathfinder class is like. I am curious about how the class is supposed to work. For those characters, I make typical choices. Lack of diversity is no problem.

Sometimes I have a particular character in mind and I strain the class concept to make the character act like he or she should. Lack of diversity can be a major problem. Paradoxically, I have this problem the most with playing NPC characters in Pathfinder modules. Sometimes the party accepts an NPC into their ranks. The NPC must change from a piece of the background to a full-personality party member.

For example, my current party member NPC is Val Baine from Fires of Creation. The module describes her as a 0-level teenage daughter of a wizard, yet of the ethnicity of the local Kellid barbarians. She aids the party because they are helping rescue her lost father, and the party decided to be supportive of her by inviting her along. (None of this is a spoiler, because Val is part of the adventure hook. Out of character, I offered the three players an NPC to assist them, and they chose her.) I could have made her a wizard like her father, a barbarian to represent her heritage, or a gunslinger to represent the technology of her hometown, but each class revealed only one facet of the character. To reflect all sides of her background in her mechanics, she became a bloodrager with a homebrew adaption of the savage technologist archetype for barbarians.

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